Tomato train

When Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey, the hosts of the WEP website, settled on the two themes for our October blog hop – Constellations or Halloween – at first I thought to opt out. I didn’t want to write anything obvious and didn’t have any original ideas. Then I remembered something that happened long ago, when I was a schoolgirl. By a strange coincidence, there is a constellation in this story, although it has nothing to do with stars or Greek myths. It is all about tomatoes.

When I was a child in the 1960s, my family lived in Moscow, Russia. Both my parents worked full time, so finding a good summer camp for their daughter was an ongoing concern. Most camps were in the Moscow suburbs, and every summer, when my parents did send me to a summer camp, I hated it. I’ve always disliked crowds, parties, and organized entertainment. I’ve never been a tin soldier, never fit well among my peers. Making friends has always been a chore for me. I usually preferred to stay home alone, snuggle on my sofa, and read a book – the activity not encouraged in a camp.

The year I turned 12 my dad worked for a prestigious government ministry, and the organization had an excellent summer camp for its employees’ children on the shore of the Black Sea. When my dad asked if I wanted to go, I agreed. It would be the first time for me on the Black Sea, and I was excited. I thought that a camp on a seashore would be different, that I’d like the adventure and the sea.

I was wrong. Despite the sea and the sun, I hated the camp, the same as any other camp I’d ever been to, with one serious difference. It was far away from Moscow, so my parents couldn’t visit on the weekends. And the term was longer, six weeks instead of the usual three.

I started sending teary letters to my parents on the first week of camp, begging them to get me back home. When they, upset by my letters, called the camp office and asked to speak to me (no cell phones or emails in those times) I cried on the phone and pleaded with them.

Eventually they folded. About three weeks into the camp, they bought me a train ticket to Moscow – air travels were too expensive then. The camp supervisor took me to the train station and watched me boarding the train. My parents would be meeting me in Moscow.

I was ecstatic to be going home and to travel by myself for the first time in my life. The trip to Moscow took two nights and one day. Fortunately, my ticket was for a good sleeper coach, with a row of closed compartments along a long corridor. I saw a similar one in the movie Murder on the Orient Express, based on Agatha Christie’s novel. Each compartment had four sleeping banks, two on the top level and two on the bottom; the latter serving as seats during the day.

tomatovine1My companions in the compartment were three middle-aged men, all traveling alone. Two of them didn’t pay me much attention. By comparison, the third one, a big swarthy fellow from Georgia, was very friendly. He was traveling to Moscow to sell his tomatoes in the Moscow markets. He told me that his tomatoes were of the most delicious sort, called Constellation, because they grew in big clusters. He had boxes of them stashed someplace on the train.

Whenever I settled on my lower bank during the day, to read or gaze out the window, he would be there too, chatting amicably, telling stories, making me laugh, and occasionally touching my bare knees or caressing my ankles. It was hot on the train, and I wore shorts. Both other men spent most of the day out of the stuffy compartment, but I had nowhere to go.

The Georgian tomato seller obviously liked my bare legs, and although I disliked his touch, I was a naive 12-year-old, very polite and timid, and I couldn’t say “No” to such an amusing man as old as my father. I squirmed, tried to conceal my revulsion, and endured his grabby hands. In the evening, the two other men came back, so nothing happened. I guess I was lucky.

When we arrived in Moscow in the morning of the second day, my parents came to my compartment to get me. The Georgian guy instantly made friends with my dad, and dad even helped him unload his Constellation tomatoes, boxes and boxes of them.

When we finally got home, I was happy. I also told my mother about the Georgian guy touching my knees. I wasn’t complaining exactly, it was more like a shameful question: was it normal? Should I have said anything? Done anything?

She was horrified, much more than I was, probably because she could well picture what could’ve been, while I couldn’t. She instantly shared her disgust with my dad. He went ballistic. “You should’ve told me right away,” he fumed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this furious, before or after. “I helped that scoundrel to unload his Constellations. I should’ve painted the constellations on his face. I should’ve smashed all his boxes and all his tomatoes, and his nose too. The cad! I should’ve beaten him bloody.”

I was scared of my father that day, even though he wasn’t angry with me. I think this tiny incident stuck in my memory not because of the guy touching my knees – I would’ve forgotten it in a few years – but because of my parents’ explosive reaction. I really understood it only years later.

By the mutual agreement between me and my parents, I’ve never gone to any summer camp again.

Word count: 900; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

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Open, Charlie on wattpad – chapter 2 & 3

I posted chapters 2 and 3 of my steampunk novella Open, Charlie on Wattpad. In these chapters, Charlie stops her flight for a breather in Chicago. She is meeting new people and making new friends. The second chapter is here.

Eighteen-year-old Charlie is running away from her criminal stepfather, a New York gang boss. For five long years, he has been forcing her to use her magical abilities to open bank vaults and safe boxes. Charlie wants to escape his brutal rule but where in America would she be safe from his ruthless avarice?

The next couple chapters will have Charlie fly a dirigible. Watch for the announcement to the dirigibles’ schedules and routes here.


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Open, Charlie on wattpad – chapter 1

I started publishing my steampunk novella Open, Charlie on Wattpad. A story in the vein of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, it includes a girl, a dirigible, magic, suspense, and the beginning of romance. It takes place in America at the turn of the 20th century. The first chapter is live here.

Eighteen-year-old Charlie is running away from her criminal stepfather, a New York gang boss. For five long years, he has been forcing her to use her magical abilities to open bank vaults and safe boxes. Charlie wants to escape his brutal rule but where in America would she be safe from his ruthless avarice?

I’ll try to publish regularly, at least once a week. The story is 7 chapters long, so it’ll take me close to 2 months to publish it all. I’ll also follow the wattpad trend and include some visuals in my future chapters, to nourish my readers’ imagination.




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Of names and pseudonyms

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

The IWSG question this month: When do you know your story is ready?

My answer: That’s a thousand dollar question. I’m sure everyone will have their own answer, but for me, a story is ready when I read it through one last time and don’t want to change anything, not a word. It’s mostly intuitive. I read the prose and try to listen to it with my inner ear. Is the word choice right? Are the sentences too clunky? Is a paragraph too long? Some short stories of mine take five or six revisions before they reach that point, and that is after the structure of the story is finalized. I don’t even want to talk about novels. Those take even longer.

And now, to my proper post, something that’s been bothering me lately. Some of you may know that Olga Godim is my pen name, not my legal name. Olga is my real-life name, but Godim was my father’s first name. He died over 20 years ago. When I first started submitting stories to publishers, in 2007, I decided to use a pseudonym, and took my father’s given name for my alias. All my fiction publications since then have been by Olga Godim.

nametagAt the time, I did it because I’ve always been shy. I was embarrassed to admit to anyone, especially to my relatives and colleagues, that I was writing fantasy fiction. It sounds odd, I know, but I was already almost 50 years old when I started, so it was, perhaps, understandable. I wouldn’t have made the same decision today but I don’t regret the choice of name I made then. In a way, it allows my long-gone father to be a part of my writing life.

Strangely, I recently began identifying with this name much more than with my legal name. I use Olga Godim in social media too. My website, my BookLikes and GoodReads accounts, my Twitter, and even my Flickr and Pinterest art collections, they all use this name. Most of the time, I feel much more an Olga Godim than the name I was born with. I even contemplated for a spell changing my legal name, but the troubling thought of changing all my documents and credit cards stopped me.

I use my legal name too, in my journalistic work – as the byline for my newspaper articles – but increasingly, it feels more and more distant, even a bit hazy. I’m becoming Olga Godim, a persona I invented, as if my mask is taking over, and I’m happy to let it. Isn’t it weird?

Does anyone who uses a literary pseudonym encounter the same paradox, or am I alone in this peculiar personality split? Am I Olga Godim or am I not? Are there two of me? It certainly feels this way, because Olga Godim is much wiser than my legal alter-ego has ever been. Olga Godim also has many more friends (online only, but still). I like her much better too. So who am I?


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Grave Escape published

As I mentioned before, my fantasy story Grave Escape was released by Bards and Sages Quarterly, as part of their series The Society of Misfit Stories. I have the link now.

Here is the blurb from Amazon:
How far would you go for your freedom? Two young women, desperate to escape the oppression of those who torture them in order to harness their magical powers, engage in a desperate escape attempt. But when the path to freedom goes through long-forgotten crypts, the destination leads to unexpected revelations.
The story is sold as a Kindle Single for $0.98 and is available as part of Kindle Unlimited. You could buy it here.

It is also eligible for their 2016 Reader’s Choice Award poll as a Favorite Misfit. If you would like to vote for my story, go to their poll page, scroll down to the Favorite “Misfit” section, and click on my name. Thank you.

Note #1: I have a very good experience with this magazine. They have another story of mine accepted for publication some time in 2017.

Note #2: When I write my stories, I always start with a visual. As soon as I have an idea for a story, I scour my collection of classical art for an appropriate image and make a cover for the story. For some reason, it helps me write it. I have a cover for this story too and I offered it to the publisher, but they rejected it. They want continuity with all the stories in the Misfit series, so all the covers look alike, only the author names and titles are different. But I want to offer you my own cover here. I like it better.

my cover image

Painting by Emile Auguste Hublin


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What I did in September

It is time again for the monthly blog hop Do You Have Goals, hosted by Misha Gericke. Here is what’s happened with my writing since the last update.

Short stories

  • Wrote             – 1 story, still WIP
  • Submitted      – 0 stories
  • Rejected         – 2 stories
  • Accepted         – 1 story
  • Published       – 2 stories

My short fantasy story, Trailing Trolls, was published in Infective Ink. You can read it here.

My fantasy novelette Grave Escape, was published as part of the series Society of Misfits by Bards and Sages Quarterly. It’s available as a Kindle single starting today, Sep 30. I don’t have the link yet, but the editor assured me it would be alive on Amazon for $0.98.


I’ve finished writing a novelette Open, Charlie. As I always do, I’m letting it sit for a while before I go back for revisions. The time allows me to get some perspective and maybe a couple beta-readers. Now all I need to do is find those beta-readers.

Open, Charlie is a steampunk-ish story in seven chapters, 20,000 words long, set in America in the beginning of the 20th century, with a dirigible, a brave girl, and some magic. I’d love for you to read it.

Art projects

Made two covers for Open, Charlie. One is a colorful cover combining two images: Gustave Caillebotte’s rain-filled cityscape (I think it is Paris) and a portrait of a red headed young girl by an unknown artist of the late 19th century. Another is a drawing in the minimalistic style. For this one, I used my favorite source for free images – Pixabay. Haven’t chosen the final one yet but I’m leaning towards the colorful one.


Also created badges for the WEP October double blog hop Constellations and Halloween, hosted by Yolanda and Denise at I love the process of making the badges, and the ladies obviously liked the results. They asked me to be their permanent ‘Badge Girl’ for the WEP challenges in the future. Of course, I accepted. Here they are, my darling badges:


Goals for October

  • Finish and submit a story for the IWSG anthology.
  • Submit several of my stories that are currently in the rejected status.
  • Revise Open, Charlie.
  • Continue working on my second regency novella.
  • Finish my fan fiction short story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe, and publish it on wattpad.



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Trailing Trolls published

My short fantasy story Trailing Trolls was published by Infective Ink today. As always, each month, the magazine publishes stories subscribing to the same theme. The September theme is Girls! Woman! Ladies! Chicks! The guidelines insisted that no man should appear in a story, and no explanation should be given for the fact. I liked the challenge. There is no man in my story, only women, trolls, and magic.
cover_allanramsay3“You’re the Adept?” A surprised frown creased the old priestess’s lined face.

“Yes.” Eriale stifled her irritation. “Do you need magical assistance?”

The multihued sunbeams, streaming through the stained-glass windows of the Scriptorium, twirled around her. They touched the golden embroidery on her tunic, bounced off the diamond buttons, and kissed her pale cheeks. She felt cherished, accepted by the sunny caress. The sunrays recognized her tremendous magical power. Only humans had trouble believing she was an Adept, one of the most powerful mages in the kingdom. Because of her short stature and expensive jewelry, most people considered her an empty-headed noble girl even younger than her twenty years. The priestess’s obvious doubts were vexing but familiar. Eriale braced herself, trying to look taller. “What can I do for you?”

The priestess winced and bowed. “Milady Adept. Yes, I need help.”

“Please, sit down and tell me.” Eriale gestured at one of the benches that lined the small reception chamber of the Scriptorium. Her official position as the royal sorceress made any magical disturbance in the kingdom her business, but what kind of a magical problem could this elderly provincial priestess have?

The priestess sat gingerly, and Eriale perched beside here.

“My temple is in Sedra,” the old woman started, her voice scratchy with age, “a village a few candlemarks north from here. Trolls stole a baby girl from one of our homesteads, while her parents worked with their sheep…”

To read the rest, click this link.

The painting I used for the cover image is by Allan Ramsay.

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Sequels and series

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. 

The IWSG question for September: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

My answer: It doesn’t apply to me. There are two reasons.

  1. I’m lucky – I don’t have a day job. I’m freelancing for a local newspaper, and when I don’t have an article to write, I work on my fiction. Or I procrastinate.🙂
  2. I live alone, so I do just as many chores as I want to. If I don’t wish to cook or clean, today or ever, I don’t do it. Nobody is there to object. I don’t have to take care of anyone, cook for a family, spend time with a husband, etc. My children are grown-ups and live independently. I can’t say I’m lucky in that respect—such existence can be lonely sometimes—but at least I write as much as I want to.

Now here is the proper IWSG post. Most fantasy writers today write series: three books or more. Some make a series about one particular character or a bunch of the same characters. Others situate their series in the same world but vary the protagonists, as if picking and choosing events from the history and geography of their world. Recently I wrote a detailed post about series in fantasy for my publisher’s blog.

I wrote a series united by the same world too, but only two first books, centering on different protagonists, have been published. The rest of my novels still need some revisions. Maybe that’s why my sales have been dismal. Maybe if I published two or three books about each of my heroes, I’d have done better in the sales department.

Even my short stories and flash fiction inspire comments of the kind: “So is there going to be a sequel?” The first time it happened with my humorous sci-fi flash Blue Santa, I was pleasantly surprised. I wrote it for a blog hop challenge and didn’t expect any serious feedback, just a few smiles. But several of the readers asked for a sequel.

Then I wrote another flash fiction, Carmela’s Copy, and got the same comments. The readers wanted a sequel, even though I never considered one.

I don’t think I’m going to write sequels for either of those extremely short stories but I suppose I have to concentrate on finishing my novels and publishing them, so at least one large series is available to my readers.

Have you encountered the same phenomenon? Do you write novels in series? Sequels for your short stories? What happened to the stand-alone novels? Do they still have a future, especially in fantasy?





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Wrap-ups and goals – August report

DoYouHaveGoalsIt is the last Friday of August already, time again for the monthly blog hop Do You Have Goals, hosted by Misha Gericke and Beth Fred. Here is what’s happened with my writing since the last update.


Short stories

• Wrote             – 2 stories (neither finished; together about 15,000 words)
• Submitted      – 3 stories
• Rejected         – 1 story


One of the stories I’m currently working on is a novelette, or maybe a short novella. It’s not finished yet, but I’m close to the end. It’s a steampunk story, or something similar to steampunk. There is a dirigible travel, some adventure and magic, and it takes place at the turn of the 20th century in America.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finish the story. There are 3 possible routes for it: submitting, self-publishing for profit ($0.99), and self-publishing for free on wattpad. I’m still considering my options. As the story isn’t done yet, I have time. The working title of the story: Open, Charlie.

Art projects

Although I haven’t finished Open, Charlie yet, I created a cover for it. Even if I go by the submission path first, I’ll still publish it myself later, so the cover won’t be wasted. Here it is:

Cover image

Goals for September

• Keep submitting my short stories.
• Continue working on my second regency novella.
• Finish Open, Charlie. Make the decision whether to start submitting it or self-publish.
• Finish my fan fiction short story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe, and publish it on wattpad.
• I have 3 articles to write for my newspaper in September and one maybe-article, if I could get an interview with the guy.



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WEP: my mother’s flowers

Badge_AlfredHutty6For this blog hop, Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey of the WEP website settled on the theme of gardens. It is such an all-inclusive theme, it could inspire hundreds of different interpretations, both fiction and non-fiction. My entry for this blog hop will be non-fiction – a true story about my mother. It’s not really about a garden, but it’s about flowers and a park, and flowers in a park is almost a garden, isn’t it? Same associations anyway.
On June 29, 2016, my mother Valentina turned 83. When she was 65, my father died, unexpectedly, in his sleep, with a book in his hands. They had a good marriage, and my mom was devastated. She didn’t know how to live alone, didn’t know how to care only for herself.

Both her daughters had their own families by then. My younger sister with her husband and children lived in the same country as mom, Israel, but in a different city. My kids and I already lived in Canada, in Vancouver, half a world away.

Mom felt alone and abandoned. To help her fight her grief and depression, one of her friends took her to a community center, to a class that painted fabric napkins. Before that day, mom had never been into arts, never painted anything in her life, never picked up a brush. She had been a computer professional before her retirement but she took to painting like a natural and she enjoyed it. She immersed herself in her new hobby, began reading books on the subject and studying new techniques.

Soon, simple napkins stopped satisfying her. She needed more sophisticated projects. She left the group but continued painting. In the years since, she has created a universe of flowery compositions, the bright and whimsical acrylics on fabric.

Mother's painting

Most of her paintings are stylized flowers: a shy water lily surrounded by reeds, proud daffodils with their golden hearts, crimson asters peeking out of their tangle of greenery. She doesn’t concern herself with photographic truth. Her pansies and lilacs, chamomile and clematis come in all sizes, colors, and shapes, even those not encountered in nature. Especially those. She had created her own fantastic garden in acrylic: Valentina’s garden.

My mother's painting

My apartment is full of my mom’s paintings. I have a couple dozen of them and I rotate them occasionally. They enliven every room, jazz up every wall, and make my mundane co-op flat worthy of a smile. I seem to live in a garden of my mother’s imagination.

She has given away numerous paintings as gifts to friends and relatives, but after a while, like every artist, she started craving a wider audience. She participated in a couple amateur art shows in Israel, but no professional gallery would accept her paintings for sale.

A few years later, during one of her annual visits to Vancouver, she hit upon the idea to sell her paintings in our biggest city park, alongside the other local artists. The artists’ circle was a Vancouver tradition by then. Every year, the artists set up their wares in a small clearing of the park, surrounded on all sides by the wondrous flower displays, different in different seasons. My mom visited in the summer, so begonias bloomed like crazy, and roses added a touch of elegance to the whole tableau.

I worried about the legalities and tried to dissuade her, but she wouldn’t deviate from her chosen course, even when a problem arose: only Canadian citizens could buy a license to sell their art in Vancouver. Mom found an original solution. That summer, my son was still in high school, at loose ends during his vacation. He wasn’t an artist, never even attempted to draw, but he was a citizen. Mom conscripted him into her scheme and promised him a percentage of her proceeds. She has always been good at persuasion. He agreed and registered the license to his name, while she paid for it. Together, they carted her paintings to the park every weekend.

They didn’t sell anything. Not many artists did, although every visitor to the park wandered by and admired the free art exhibition. Many complimented my mom’s incredible flowers.

In the absence of paying customers, the artists also visited each other and commented on each other’s art. As the license bore my son’s name, the compliments and constructive, professional criticism were all directed his way. His grandmother was just ‘helping along’ and listening, absorbing the critiques like a sponge. My son, the pour boy, couldn’t help but cringe in shame. Although his English is perfect, he couldn’t understand half of what the artists were saying. Their painterly advices, stuffed with trade talk, baffled him, but he manfully kept on the charade for his grandmother’s benefit.

Her inability to sell grated on my mother. For a practical woman she is, having a closetful of unrequited art rankled. In her search for a market, she later switched to hand-painting silk scarves, and suddenly discovered a niche she could fill. The same colorful flowers that graced her paintings migrated to her scarves and shawls, as beautiful and elusive as the rainbow. Many women in Israel wear her fanciful hand-painted scarves now.

I have a few of her scarves myself, and every time I pick up one to go out, its flowing arabesques and vivid petals envelop my neck. And I think of my mother. She still paints new scarves. And sells them too.
Word count: 850; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

After I wrote this little essay I thought: what a grand idea for a fiction story. And I wrote one too. Only that story is almost 4,000 words and science fiction. It happened on a space station. If anyone is interested, here it is.

Note: Sorry for the quality of the photos. I just photographed what is hanging on my walls.


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